Kashmir: The need to start a peace process

Written By: Reapan Tikoo WION
Delhi Updated: Sep 16, 2016, 09:36 AM(IST)

By the end of September 1947, the non-Kashmiri speaking areas of Kashmir, like Mirpur, Muzafarabad and Poonch, had revolted against the Government of J&K and drove out Hindus and Sikh?s permanently, as one lac refugees. Photograph:( Getty )

The chairman of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, wrote articles about Kashmir that were published in leading newspapers of the subcontinent: Wake Up to the Reality of Kashmir, in the Hindu on July 10; A New Generation of Struggle, published in both Indian Express on July 13 and in Dawn on July 14. The articles are similar and are full of political dust that obscure the truth. These articles amount to politics over our children’s dead bodies. The whole of India is saddened by the July 2016 events in Kashmir.

Background: When Lalitaditya Muktapida in the 8th Century, the greatest Kashmiri warrior king, conquered Turkistan, the people on that side of the world came to know of Kashmir. Descendants of Genghis Khan, who had not converted to Islam then, burnt Bagdad in the 13th Century and some privileged Muslim clergy families in Iran-Iraq fled to Kashmir. Mirwize, aka Head Priest of Kashmir, his family was one such family to settle in Kashmir. Coincidently most of the pro-Pakistan leaders in Kashmir, be it Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Syedah Aasiyeh Andrabi or Maulvi Omar Farooq, trace their roots to Iran-Iraq. Some of the accomplished Kashmiris have also come from this group. These families, called Syed, don’t usually marry the local indigenous Kashmiris. They have stayed segregated for around six hundred years, with a sense of superiority over the native Kashmiris.

In the 1940’s Sheikh Mohd Abdullah, indigenous Kashmiri and descendant of Pandit Ragho Ram Koul, saw the then Mirwize, Yusuf Shah as anti-Kashmir, and someone serving the Maharaja Hari Singh in the guise of religion. Mirwize saw Sheikh as anti-Muslim. Little before the Pakistan backed tribal (PBT) attack on October 22, 1947, Mirwize Yusuf Shah, who was sure of the PBT victory, went to Pakistan to seek support from Jinnah; he wanted to be appointed the political head of J&K. In the meantime, J&K’s Maharaja Hari Singh signed the accession treaty with India, which was only accepted by the then Prime Minister Jawharlal Nehru, after it was counter signed by the popular leader of Kashmir, Sheikh Mohd Abdullah.

The first Dakota aircraft with soldiers from 1st Sikh Regiment reached Srinagar on October 27,1947, within hours of the signing of the Instrument of Accession. By this time Baramulla had been captured by the PBT; and an orgy of raping, killing and looting had been unleashed on Kashmiris in Barmulla.

The civilian volunteer resistance group of Kashmiris, known as Salamati Fauj, played an important role in defeating the PBT. Mohd Maqbool Sherwani, part of the Salamati Fauj, single-handedly frustrated the PBT advance from Baramulla to Srinagar, thus giving valuable time to the Indian Army to land at the Srinagar Airport. The PBT put him on a wooden cross and nailed him to it. This martyr’s body was brought down on November 8,1947, three days after his death, when the PBT were driven out by the Indian Army from Baramulla. Salamati Fauj guarded bridges, so that they were not blown up by the PBT, which would have delayed the movement of India Army against the PBT.
The first Dakota aircraft with soldiers from 1st Sikh Regiment reached Srinagar on October 27,1947, within hours of the signing of the Instrument of Accession. By this time Baramulla had been captured by the PBT; and an orgy of raping, killing and looting had been unleashed on Kashmiris in Barmulla.
The first batch of the Indian army was driven in local vehicles by Kashmiris from the airport to Baramulla and was ambushed by the PBT near Pattan. Salamati Fauj helped the Indian army escape the ambush. The commander of Indian army, Lt. Col Dewan Ranjit Rai, lit a cigarette, in the dead of the night, after escaping the ambush. The enemy bullet found him. This martyr became the first recipient of the Mahavir Chakra in free India. I have heard this story and many events of that time in the lap of my grandfather, Pandit Shyam Lal Tikoo, who was one of the members of the Salamati Fauj which guided the Indian Army to safety from the said ambush on October 27, 1947. It was the Indian Army that saved Kashmir in 1947, on the invitation of Kashmiris and with the local support of Kashmiris.

By the end of September 1947, the non-Kashmiri-speaking areas of Kashmir, like Mirpur, Muzafarabad and Poonch, had revolted against the Government of J&K and drove out Hindus and Sikh’s permanently, as one lac refugees. Despite being citizens of J&K, they never got settled in Kashmir; since 1951, twenty five seats have been reserved in the J&K Legislative Assembly for these areas, which are now in Pakistan occupied Jammu Kashmir (PoK). It's time we make these seats active by filling them with the bonafide voters and bonafide candidates from that area, presently living as refugees in India and other parts of the world.

In the Kashmiri-speaking valley, we had no communal rioting in 1947; elsewhere the miniscule Pandit population would have been wiped out. This made Kashmiri-speaking valley culturally fit with secular India. Kashmiris had got a glimpse of the dark side of Pakistan, when they occupied Baramulla for a little time in October 1947. Kashmiri Pandits saw Sheikh as a Krishna Avtar for saving them. This made Prime Minster Nehru, in consultation with Sheikh, stop the Indian Army from crossing into these non-Kashmiri speaking areas, while driving the PBT out of Kashmir. The Line of Control as you see today in Kashmir divides Kashmiri speaking areas with non-Kashmiri speaking areas.

Mirwize Yousuf Shah was not allowed by Sheikh to return to the Valley, and he stayed back in PoK. Yousuf Shah’s son, wife and daughter-in-law were deported to PoK by Sheikh after he became the interim Prime Minister of J&K. Maulvi Farook, nephew of Yousuf Shah, was appointed the new Mirwize. He was assassinated by Pakistan-backed terrorists in May of 1990. Muhammad Umar Farooq took over the charge as Mirwaiz, at the age of seventeen, after his father Maulvi Farooq’s assassination.


Back to Mirwize’s article. The unrest you are talking about is nothing but organising the crowd against a manufactured enemy. For the last three months this unrest was being built-up under the guise of agitation against the Pandit colonies; with rival separatist outfits coming together on one platform and mainstream political parties also becoming a party to it.

Referring to Rising Kashmir, one of the leading English Kashmir dailies, on May 8, 2016 ‘Stop opposing Kashmiri Pandit settlement in satellite townships” said: “We are a group of Kashmiri Muslims on whose behalf any faction of Hurriyat — which portrays itself as the representative voice of all Kashmiris — does not speak. We are distressed that the minorities are being treated insensitively by self-styled leaders in the name of secularism. If the separatists really wish to remove their taint of communal intolerance, nothing could be more counter-productive than opposing the return of Pandits. In fact, this obstructions only provide the definitive confirmation that the ‘Tehreek’ is indeed what it is alleged to be. Through this open letter, we wish to make an appeal to Kashmiris of all denominations, including separatists, to support the resettlement of Pandits and leave the modalities of return for the Pandits to decide.”

Mirwize, you didn’t listen to this Kashmiri voice. You kept on building the momentum by opposing the Pandit Colony, Sainik Colony and Industrial Policy that would have brought talent, investment and jobs to J&K. Burhan Wani’s killing gave you and the said ideology, an opportunity that you had been waiting for, and again the politics over dead bodies of our children unfolded.

You further state that, “Burhan, a 22-year-old Kashmiri militant commander, represented the fifth generation of Kashmiris…” The same village that Burhan came from, ie Tral, gave the Indian Army its first Kashmiri Muslim General, born and brought-up in Kashmir, Major General Mohd Amin Naik, who also served at Army Headquarters as General Staff Officer. General Naik was decorated with the Sena Medal for exemplary service, and has been awarded the Arjuna Award. In 1982, while I was studying at Tyndale Biscoe at Srinagar, the whole school rejoiced that its alumni, General Naik had won a bronze in rowing at the Asian Games. This inspired us to better our best in Regatta, on every Wednesday at Dal Lake, as part of our school curriculum.  Around the same time, Mirwize, you went to Burn Hall School at Srinagar, and might have missed this laurel that General Naik brought to Kashmir.
The unrest you are talking about is nothing but organising the crowd against a manufactured enemy. I name this the said ideology and make it vivid, as we go along.

You further state in your article, “It is 85 years since July 13, 1931 when Kashmiris rose in rebellion against an oppressive occupation. Twenty four Kashmiris were killed in firing…”. It was twenty seven people who had been killed on that day. Police killed the civilians; a group of these civilians then went rioting against Kashmiri Pandits, who had nothing to do with the killings of twenty four Muslim civilians. Earlier outsiders from Swat valley, Tatar, Afghans et cetera had brutalised Kashmiris, but never before had Kashmiris rioted against their own and killed their own. The shops and houses belonging to the Kashmiri Pandits were not only looted but also burnt. Three innocent Kashmiri Pandits lost their lives. Vicharnag, a Kashmiri Pandit Village, on the outskirts of Srinagar was the worst hit. This is the day the Kashmiriyat started dying; and died with the ethnic cleansing and exodus of Pandits in the 1990.

You further invoke Gandhi ji in your article. Mahatam Gandhi never used violence as a political instrument. Awami Action Committee (AAC) is the political organisation of Mirwize and has pockets of influence in downtown Srinagar. In 1990, AAC diversified and formed Al-Umar, a terrorist organisation led by Mushtaq Ahmed Zargar; who was captured and then released from jail on December 31, 1999, as part of the Indian Airlines Flight 814 hostage deal at Kandhar.

You further state, “The state of Jammu and Kashmir, as it existed on August 14, 1947, is a disputed territory, recognised as such by the UN”.  The UN Resolution of August 13, 1948, clearly states that Pakistan was to vacate its troops from J&K. It was India that wanted a Plebiscite to allow J&K to decide its future, ie to be with India or Pakistan, like India did in February 1948 for Junagadh in Gujarat. Pakistan didn’t want the plebiscite, for it knew the people of J&K, whom they had attacked in October 1947 and had been saved by the Indian Army, would vote for India. Thus Pakistan never withdrew its Army from occupied J&K for plebiscite.

To make matters worse, Pakistan began to break the territory of J&K that it had occupied. It extended its administration to the northern areas of the state and called the balance occupied area Azad Kashmir. In 1963, Pakistan handed over 5,480 square kilometres of territory in Shaksgam area of Karakoram region to China. Since 1988, Pakistan has settled Punjabi-speaking Sunni Muslims in Gilgit area of PoK, and reduced the indigenous Shia population there to a minority. Pakistan sponsored the ethnic cleansing of indigenous Kashmiri Pandits in the Valley, and the exodus of Hindu, Sikh, Gujjar Muslims et cetera in Pir Panchal range of Jammu. With the demographic changes by Pakistan (and you accuse India of demographic change in Kashmir? When? Where?), and the break-up of the PoK, plebiscite isn’t possible.

On August 2, 2016, Stephane Dujarric UN spokesman said, "I just wanted to clarify something, which is that UNMOGIP, the UN observer presence there, its mandate is to report on the ceasefire between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control. The UN Mission there does not have a mandate there beyond the Line of Control."  Since 1948 until today, political entrepreneurs in Kashmir have tried to build a constituency around plebiscite, knowing well it can’t happen.

Further, since 1947, it is the people of Kashmiri origin who have held the highest political office in India, such as prime ministers like Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi, or home ministers like Mufti Mohd Sayeed. We have had defence service chiefs in India from J&K;  Gen TN Raina, Air Chief Marshal SK Kaul, Gen NC Vij, Air Vice Marshal Kapil Kak, Major General Mohd Amin Naik. People of J&K origin have headed top Indian institutions, or have been part of sports teams, like the present chief justice (CJ) of India TS Thakur, Parveez Ghulam Rasool Zargar on the national cricket team, RAW founder chief  RN Kao, Foreign Secretary TN Kaul, CJ of HP High Court Manzoor Mir, former CJ of Orisa High Court, Bilal Nazki, CJ of Tamil Nadu SK Kaul, and the former governor of Madhya Pradesh, Shafi Qurashi. The citizens of J&K are equal opportunity citizens of India.

You further state, “What do you say about the sentiment that makes our youth so daring that they pelt stones…”. I worked with Santosh Sivan on the story of a movie called Tahaan, which was released in 2008. This is a story about an innocent Kashmiri boy, who is ready to throw a grenade on the Indian Army for money. This story reflects the reality. The poor man’s child is being used as a foot soldier; a kid who doesn’t even know the consequence of his action.

You mention one lakh people have been killed. This is so very sad. This ideology has wasted precious life over a futile cause. The said ideology has unfortunately brought communal labelling to all the Kashmiris due to the exodus of Pandits from the Valley; despite most of us believing in plural ethos. My own great-grandmother, Arnimal Tikoo, gave her milk to the neighbouring Muslim boy, Haji Mohd Sidique, who had lost his mother. Both families continue to share a close bond; there are many such stories across Kashmir.

The said ideology destroyed the plural Kashmiri ethos of living in mixed neighborhoods, sharing lives, sorrow, joys and festivals. Anyone back from Haj pilgrimage would bring Aab-i-Zumzum and dates to our home. Pandits main festival of Shivratri; the day of rejoicing is called “Salam”, because Muslim neighbours and friends would come to wish the Pandits on Shivratri. Islam in Kashmir allows singing in the Mosques called Darudkhani, similar to aarti of Pandits. No Kashmiri will eat fish from the spring attached to a temple, Kashmiri Muslims wouldn’t eat beef a few decades back, Kashmiris didn’t eat meat on Tuesday. The  Reshi-Pir shrines spread across the Valley are revered by both Muslims and Pandits. A list of the pluralism in Kashmir is long.

When Islam came to Kashmir, Pandits saw it as an extension of Nirakar, ie a formless branch of Hinduism, and was welcomed by Pandits who got converted to the new faith en masse by the preachers who came from Iran-Iraq, as explained earlier. Islam enriched Kashmiri culture and had an indigenous flavour. Hydrocarbon money has changed this to Wahabism in the last three decades.

The said ideology is making an attempt to put political dust on the greatness of Kashmir and bury the ancient identity of Kashmir. Adi Shankarcharya converted us en masse from Buddhism to Sanatan Dharm around 800 AD. Buddhism built a casteless society in Kashmir and  Adi converted them to Brahmans, ie converting them from Nastika to Astika, as per the ancient philosophy of Kashmir. This made all Hindus in Kashmir of Brahmin cast. With affection and reverence, a hill where he meditated, was named after him by the Kashmiris. This hill in recent times is being called Thakt-a-Sulaiman. The irony is that Soloman never visited Kashmir. Srinagar city, founded by Ashoka, is now called Shahar-a-Khaas. Similarly, Hari Parbat is now called Koh-a-Maran. Anantnag is now called Islamabad. There are many such instances. This makes most of the thinking Kashmiris sad. The said ideology is systematically making the link of Kashmir with its glorious past opaque; they want the political dust to make our future generations unaware of who they are.

Leaders of the said ideology have prospered, getting the best medical treatment in Mumbai, Delhi and Overseas; living in huge mansions with large support staff and winter holiday homes outside Kashmir. This explains the peace in Kashmir during winter. Their children go to the best schools, best global universities and have the best professional opportunity. These leaders have never held a job nor managed any business. How is that they lead such lavish lives, while the foot soldiers have found the grave and wailing parents, their families stuck in an abyss of poverty?

Rhetoric and emotive issues, with radicalism being romanticised and instigating crowds against a manufactured enemy, have destroyed Kashmir. This serves those who don’t love Kashmiris. If we don’t do course correction, Sangbazi, local jargon for stone throwing, will actually take Kashmir towards the stone age. This ideology also consumed one of the secular and respected leaders of Kashmir, Maulvi Farooq, your father. In 2004, the said ideology burnt the 110-year-old school you as Mirwize manage, Islamia Higher Secondary School. In 2004, your uncle, Maulvi Mushtaq was killed by the said ideology while praying in a mosque. The said ideology burnt the shrine of the Kashmir’s patron saint, Sheikh-ul-Alam, whom Pandits call Nund Rishi, at Char-e-Sharif. The shrine of Dastgeer Sahib at Kahnayar, Srinagar was burnt by the said ideology. The list is huge. It is time we stop the said ideology from destroying everything that Kashmir stood for.

You further state in your article, “I want to remind the people of India that we have tried our best to resolve this dispute with the Indian state through dialogue”. You speak for all the people of J&K. Please contest the coming assembly elections, prove your representative character. In 1977 the Mirwiz’s AAC was part of Janata Party and contested the assembly elections and won only one seat, Eidgah; polling around nineteen thousand votes. The only time it contested elections.

Children are the only asset any society actually has; this asset needs nurturing to reach its true potential.  It painful to know that the injured and the dead children are the poorest among us. Today the future of our children in J&K can’t be mortgaged to the past. No way should they be used as fodder to sustain the said ideology. Nor should our prejudices be passed to our children. Immediately, everyone who loves Kashmiris, needs to work towards bringing calm to Kashmir.

Following needs to be done immediately:
  • We need to get the best medical treatment for our injured children, followed by education, skills and employment.
  • The Kashmiris need not suffer during the curfew and essential commodities should reach them.
  • For those who have lost family members, nothing can bridge the void in their lives but a member from such a family should be provided government employment or interest free loan, without any collateral, to start a business. State owned J&K Bank can be given the mandate to implement it.
  • Similarly the Government employed Pandits living in Valley, who have fled in July’2016, may be absorbed in Jammu, till he/she feels safe to be back in Kashmir.
  • Unless some serious crime has been committed, no body from Kashmir should be harassed in the cities of India in the guise of Nationalism. A helpline and a special cell should be formed under a Superintendent of Police in J&K, with legal assistants, to help Kashmiris in such eventuality.
  • Educational institutions and universities in Kashmir have to be working ASAP.

We have lost another tourist season. We, all who love Kashmir, have to work towards economic revival of Kashmir, and a peaceful Kashmir is the only way to attract tourists and film crews wanting to shoot in our land. Government can’t provide employment to all; in fact J&K Government should reduce its budget on itself in the form of salaries and cost of government. Today’s global economy is about solving human problems. J&K has to build the high technology knowledge ecosystem; and attract investment, skills, education, investors and talent in setting-up such enterprises; and integrates itself with the global economy.

J&K is fatigued. It needs a leadership that can make individuals, communities, religions and regions live together in peace. Otherwise, conflict will consume us. J&K aspires for a leadership that can make our state a bridge between India and Pakistan, rather than be a bone of contention between the two countries.

Mirwize can you lead our J&K there?

Reapan Tikoo
A Citizen of J&K

(WION is not responsible for the facts and historicity of this article.)
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